Africa File

A biweekly analysis and assessment of the Salafi-jihadi movement in Africa and related security and political dynamics.   Each edition begins "At a Glance." Country-specific updates follow.{{authorBox.message}}

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Africa File: Ethiopia crisis spreads beyond Tigray

[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader's awareness.]

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The civil war in northern Ethiopia is spreading and poses a serious risk to the stability of the entire country. Tigrayan forces crossed from Tigray into neighboring Afar region, weeks after recapturing Tigray’s regional capital from Ethiopian federal forces. Tigrayan forces could severely disrupt the Ethiopian economy if they gain control of key road and rail lines in Afar that connect Ethiopia to the sea through neighboring Djibouti. The conflict is already fueling a dire humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia.

Widespread and persistent conflict in Ethiopia—home to Africa’s second-largest population—would create opportunities for Salafi-jihadi groups, including Somalia’s al Shabaab, which has tried and largely failed to gain a foothold in Ethiopia in the past. The Ethiopia crisis comes as al Shabaab wages offensives in Somalia and seeks to capitalize on that country’s ongoing political dysfunction.

In this Africa File:

  • Ethiopia. Tigrayan forces advanced into a neighboring region and may soon threaten critical transit routes between landlocked Ethiopia and coastal Djibouti.
  • Somalia. The US military conducted the first drone strike in Somalia under the Joe Biden administration to support Somali forces countering al Shabaab advances in north-central Somalia.
  • Sahel. France’s president announced a plan to end the French counterterrorism mission in Mali. Rising Salafi-jihadi violence in Burkina Faso caused mass protests.
  • Lake Chad. The Islamic State’s branch in Nigeria is strengthening following the death of Boko Haram’s leader.

Latest publications:

  • Africa. Salafi-jihadi insurgencies are costing Africa billions of dollars that should be fueling economic growth and better governance. Read Emily Estelle’s analysis in AEIdeas here.
  • Mozambique. Emily Estelle traces the development of the Islamic State in Mozambique for Foreign Policy, arguing that “getting policies right in Mozambique could set a new and better precedent for the fight against Salafi-jihadi insurgencies in Africa in general.” Read the piece here.
  • Mozambique. Emily Estelle and Jessica Trisko Darden updated the analysis from their February 2021 report on the Islamic State in Mozambique for Orbis. Read the article here.

Read Further On:

East Africa

West Africa

Figure 1. The Salafi-jihadi movement in Africa: July 2021

View full image here.

Source: Authors.


Overview: The Salafi-jihadi threat in Africa

Updated July 1, 2021

The Salafi-jihadi movement, which includes al Qaeda and the Islamic State, is active across Northern, Eastern, and Western Africa and is expanding and deepening its presence on the continent (Figure 1). This movement, like any insurgency, draws strength from access to vulnerable and aggrieved populations. Converging trends, including failing states and regional instability, are creating favorable conditions for the Salafi-jihadi movement’s expansion. Meanwhile, counterterrorism efforts rely on the continued efforts of international coalitions, support for which is eroding, and on states and local authorities that have demonstrated an inability to govern effectively.

West Africa. The Salafi-jihadi movement has spread rapidly in West Africa by exploiting ethnic grievances and state weaknesses that include human rights abuses, corruption, and ineffectiveness. An al Qaeda affiliate co-opted the 2012 Tuareg rebellion in Mali and has continued to expand southward through the Sahel region into central Mali and the peripheries of Burkina Faso. An Islamic State–linked group is active in the same area, particularly western Niger and parts of Burkina Faso.

Sahel groups have not yet plotted attacks outside West Africa but have sought to drive Western security and economic presence out of the region while building lucrative smuggling and kidnapping-for-ransom enterprises. An al Qaeda–linked group in Mali is infiltrating governance structures, advancing an overarching Salafi-jihadi objective, and expanding into Gulf of Guinea countries. West Africa has become an area of focus for transnational Salafi-jihadi organizations, with rival jihadists now fighting for dominance in the Sahel. Meanwhile, political instability, particularly in Mali, threatens local and international counterterrorism efforts.

The Islamic State’s largest African affiliate is based in northwest Nigeria—Africa’s most populous country—and conducts frequent attacks into neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Boko Haram and an al Qaeda–linked splinter group are also active in this region. The death of Boko Haram’s longtime leader in May 2021 may lead to short-term intra-jihadist turmoil but will likely benefit the Islamic State’s Nigerian branch in time.

New instability in Chad, whose longtime president was killed in April 2021, may lift pressure from Salafi-jihadi groups in both Mali and the Lake Chad Basin, where Chadian forces participate in regional counterterrorism efforts.

East Africa. Al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate and the dominant Salafi-jihadi group in East Africa, is vocal about its intent to attack US interests and has begun to plot international terror attacks. The group enjoys de facto control over broad swathes of southern Somalia and can project power in the Somali federal capital Mogadishu and regional capitals, where it regularly attacks senior officials. It seeks to delegitimize and replace the weak Somali Federal Government—a task made easier by endemic political dysfunction, corruption, and an ongoing constitutional crisis. Al Shabaab’s governance ambitions extend to ethnic Somali populations in Kenya and Ethiopia, and the group conducts regular attacks in eastern Kenya.

Al Shabaab is positioned to benefit from eroding security conditions in East Africa. Ethiopia’s destabilization is already having regional effects, including weakening counter–al Shabaab efforts in Somalia. The drawing down of the US and African Union counterterrorism missions in Somalia will also reduce pressure on al Shabaab.

The Islamic State has also penetrated the region. Islamic State branches are now active in northern Somalia, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and northern Mozambique, bordering Tanzania. The insurgency caused French company Total to shutter a multibillion-dollar natural gas project in northern Mozambique that was the continent’s largest private investment. The Islamic State foothold in Mozambique also marks the Salafi-jihadi movement’s expansion into southern Africa.

North Africa. Salafi-jihadi groups in North Africa are at a low point, but the fragility and grievances that led to their rise remain. The Arab Spring uprisings and subsequent security vacuums allowed Salafi-jihadi groups to organize and forge ties with desperate and coerced populations. The Islamic State’s rise brought a peak in Salafi-jihadi activity in North Africa, particularly from its branches in Libya and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Counterterrorism pressure has weakened Salafi-jihadi groups across North Africa in the past five years.

The insurgencies in Libya and the Sinai are active but contained, and terrorist attacks across the region have decreased. Libya’s political and security crisis will continue to create opportunities for Salafi-jihadi groups, and severe instability or collapse in any North African state would likely bring the Salafi-jihadi threat back to the surface.

East Africa


Ethiopia

The conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region crossed into another region for the first time. The Tigray Defense Forces (TDF)—the military wing of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)—launched an offensive against security forces from Ethiopia’s Amhara region and remaining Ethiopian government forces in western and southern Tigray on July 12. The TDF then turned its focus east and invaded Ethiopia’s Afar region on July 17, marking the first time that the conflict has crossed regional borders.

The TDF offensive is part of the TPLF’s broader strategy to expel external forces from Tigray, reestablish prewar regional boundaries, degrade adversary military capabilities, and force the Ethiopian government to recognize the TPLF as Tigray’s legitimate governing party. The conflict first began when the Ethiopian government intervened in Tigray in November 2020 after Tigrayan forces attacked a federal military base. The TDF turned the tide of the conflict in late June when it recaptured Mekelle, the Tigray regional capital, from Ethiopian federal forces in late June. The Ethiopian government initially declared a unilateral cease-fire while attempting to cut off access to Tigray.

The Ethiopian federal government has now rallied security forces from at least four regional states against the TDF. On July 13, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed *called on all Ethiopian citizens to unite against the TDF and support the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) in all possible ways. Regional security forces from Oromia, Sidama, and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region mobilized to join the ENDF-led fight in Tigray in response. Fighters from Amhara regional state have been active in Tigray throughout the current conflict.

The TDF’s incursion into Afar could threaten key infrastructure that underpins the Ethiopian economy. Landlocked Ethiopia relies on rail and road lines that run through Afar into coastal Djibouti.

The expansion of the Ethiopian conflict increases the likelihood of international involvement. The Ethiopian and Russian governments signed a military cooperation *agreement on July 12, before the TDF’s latest offensive. The agreement likely indicates Prime Minister Abiy’s interest in soliciting state powers with better technology and more lethal capabilities that can bolster ENDF capabilities while also overlooking the alleged human rights abuses committed in Tigray by the ENDF and its allies. The Ethiopia-Russia agreement could presage support from either formal or informal elements of the Russian military, such as the Wagner Group, which has entered African conflicts in the Central African Republic, Libya, and Mozambique.

The humanitarian situation in Tigray is dire but improving. The latest UN report highlighted that Amhara security forces were blocking the flow of humanitarian supplies in western and southern Tigray in late June. The TDF now controls territory containing around 75 percent of the Tigrayan population, and access to previously denied areas is reopening. The fuel, food, water, and other hygienic necessities that that have made it to at-risk areas are depleting rapidly, however. More than five million Tigrayans (70 percent of the population) still need emergency food aid.

The war in Tigray will continue. The Ethiopian government and the TPLF are doubling down on the conflict. Both sides will likely seek new or additional external support. The conflict also includes Eritrea, whose forces joined Ethiopian federal forces in Tigray and suffered recent losses near their border as the TDF gained momentum. The Ethiopian conflict is on a dangerous trajectory that will destabilize the country and the Horn of Africa region.

Somalia

The US military conducted its first airstrike in Somalia under the Joe Biden administration. The July 20 drone strike targeted al Shabaab militants in *Mudug region in north-central Somalia. The militants were attacking members of the US-trained Danab Somali special forces (Figure 2).

Al Shabaab is waging offensives on two fronts in central Somalia. The Danab forces in Mudug are responding to an ongoing al Shabaab offensive. Al Shabaab is contesting control of several towns in southwestern Mudug region near the coast. The group launched a complex attack on a military base at Wisil in late June. Somali National Army (SNA) and al Shabaab forces *traded control of several villages in July.[1] Somali forces have escalated efforts to recapture towns from al Shabaab since July 12, when officials from Galmudug and Puntland states signed a joint agreement to counter al Shabaab in Mudug. The SNA claimed to *recapture several towns and announced plans for further operations into al Shabaab–controlled areas to the south.

Al Shabaab has also stepped up a long-running campaign to advance northward along the main highway connecting three regional capitals: Beledweyne in Hiraan region, Dhusamareb in Galguduud region, and Galkayo in Mudug region. The group has maneuvered northeast from Beledweyne since October 2018. This campaign began in earnest when tensions between the SNA and the Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a militia led to violence in Dhusamareb in February 2019.

Al Shabaab has most recently escalated along this inland highway since February 2021. Militants attacked Dhusamareb at least seven times between February and April. The group has also been active in the area between Elbur and Dhusamareb and along the Galguduud-Mudug regional border since September 2020. More recently, the group *clashed with the SNA in a town along the highway 20 miles southwest of Dhusamareb on July 5.

Figure 2. Key locations in north-central Somalia: July 2021

Source: Authors.

Note: This map shows selected contested locations, not all al Shabaab or Somali military activity.

Al Shabaab continued attacks in Mogadishu and will likely escalate in the lead-up to Somalia’s elections. Suicide bombings on July 3 and July 10 targeted security officials in the capital. The ongoing attacks signal al Shabaab’s capability to threaten Somalia’s slate of national elections, which will be held between July and October following a drawn-out political crisis. Al Shabaab’s leader called for Somalis to boycott the elections in an address released on the Eid al Adha holiday on July 20.[2]

West Africa

Sahel

France will end its counterterrorism operation in the Sahel by 2022. French President Emmanuel Macron announced on July 13 that Operation Barkhane will end in the first quarter of 2022. The French troop contribution will be halved and three military bases in Mali will be closed. European troops under the Takuba Task Force will replace the withdrawing French troops, with France’s remaining troops acting as Takuba’s “backbone.”

Several Salafi-jihadi media releases targeted France. Al Qaeda– and Islamic State–linked groups operating in the Sahel region of West Africa seek to drive French presence and influence from the region. Al Qaeda–linked Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wa al Muslimeen (JNIM) released its first video since January 2020 on July 9 calling for Muslims to take up arms against Western countries, particularly France. The video framed the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in France as part of a war on Islam. An al Qaeda media outlet released part of a documentary series on July 15 also castigating France for the republication of Prophet Mohammed cartoons in December 2020.[3] Al Qaeda’s General Command had released a statement in early January 2021 calling on its supporters to boycott and attack French interests due to the cartoons.

Islamic State media also continues to promote its affiliate’s activities in the Sahel. The group’s July 14 al Naba newsletter mocked the June 28 Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS meeting in Italy and warned European countries to fear its expansion in the Sahel.[4]

JNIM is again calling on the Malian government to  exchange prisoners. JNIM released a video on July 16 showing captive Malian soldiers and calling for the release of imprisoned JNIM leaders.[5] JNIM released a French national and two other Europeans as part of a prisoner exchange with the Malian government in October 2020. The Malian government released nearly 200 JNIM and non-JNIM prisoners in return and possibly paid ransom. The video likely aims to initiate another prisoner exchange or ransom with the Malian government.

Mali’s interim president survived an assassination attempt. Unidentified attackers attempted a knife attack on President Assimi Goita in Mali’s capital, Bamako, after Eid al Adha celebrations on July 20. The president appeared on national television later that day to confirm his health. Goita was involved in both the August 2020 and the May 2021 coup d’état and was sworn in as the country’s interim leader on June 7.

Unrest is rising in response to a spike in Salafi-jihadi attacks on civilians in Burkina Faso. Demonstrators massed in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, in response to insecurity on July 3, calling on the Burkinabe government to alleviate the humanitarian crisis caused by increased Salafi-jihadi attacks. Gunmen killed at least 130 civilians in northwestern Burkina Faso in the worst terrorist attack in the country’s history on June 4–5. President Roch Marc Christian Kabore dismissed his defense and security ministers on July 7 and took over as defense minister in an attempt to appease protesters. The security situation continues to worsen, however. JNIM militants have *closed off the roads to several villages throughout Burkina Faso, not allowing villagers to escape and limiting access to resources. Likely JNIM militants also attacked security forces and blockaded a village in eastern Burkina Faso on July 20.

Lake Chad

The Islamic State’s West Africa Province is strengthening in the aftermath of the death of Boko Haram’s leader. Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWA) is cementing its control in Sambisa Forest, previously Boko Haram’s main base and hideout. ISWA militants *established rules and taxes in Sambisa Forest on July 4, lifting a ban on fishing and farming activities. The group is taking over governance structures previously controlled by former Boko Haram leader Abubakr Shekau. ISWA’s control of the region will provide the group with additional resources to strengthen and expand its presence in and beyond northeastern Nigeria.

ISWA may be expanding southward and targeting Christians in Nigeria’s Adamawa state. ISWA claimed an attack killing 30 Christian civilians and militiamen in Adamawa state’s Dabna village on July 8.[6] ISWA has conducted some *attacks in Adamawa in the past, but Boko Haram has historically been more active in the area. Boko Haram militants most recently *attacked in Adamawa on April 11. The recent ISWA attack claim may indicate that the group has absorbed some Boko Haram fighters that were active in this area. The Islamic State’s al Naba newsletter has heavily promoted Boko Haram deaths and defections to ISWA since Shekau’s death in a confrontation with ISWA in May.[7]

ISWA activity is increasing in Cameroon. Likely ISWA militants have conducted several attacks in villages in northern Cameroon since the beginning of July. ISWA conducted four attacks in less than two weeks in northern Cameroon, an uptick compared to ISWA’s previous activity in the region. The Multinational Joint Task Force has repelled some of the group’s attacks, but ISWA will likely continue operating in northern Cameroon due to its ability to return to its base across the border in Nigeria.


[1] SITE Intelligence Group, “Shabaab Claims 70 Casualties in Counter-Offensive in Mudug, Documents Enemy Casualties and Fighters Maintaining Control Over Areas,” July 7, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[2] SITE Intelligence Group, “Shabaab Leader Discusses Obstacles to Somali Prosperity in Eid al-Adha Speech, Calls to Boycott Elections,” July 20, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[3] SITE Intelligence Group, “Al-Qaeda Releases 1st Part of Video Documentary on Jihadi Reprisals for Insults to Islam, Vilification of France,” July 15, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[4] SITE Intelligence Group, “IS Mocks Meeting of Global Coalition to Defeat It, Agrees Italy Should Fear Sahel Expansion,” July 14, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[5] SITE Intelligence Group, “JNIM Releases Video of Captive Sub-prefects, Malian Soldiers,” July 16, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[6] SITE Intelligence Group, “ISWAP Claims Killing 30 Christians and "Apostate" Militiamen in Attack in Adamawa,” July 8, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[7] SITE Intelligence Group, “IS Details Events Leading to Boko Haram Leader Shekau Killing Himself Rather than Surrender,” July 1, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

View Citations

Africa File: Terrorism’s rising cost in Africa

[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader's awareness.]

To receive the Africa File via email, please subscribe here.

The economic cost of terrorism in Africa has skyrocketed in the past decade. Money that could be generating economic expansion and better lives for millions of people is being destroyed by insurgencies and hoarded by Salafi-jihadi groups, some with global goals. The most striking recent case is that of Mozambique, where an Islamic State–linked insurgency disrupted a multibillion-dollar natural gas project that was meant to underwrite decades of economic growth. Salafi-jihadi groups are depriving communities of resources across several African regions. For example, al Shabaab’s tax revenues rival those of Somalia’s national government. Read more here.

In this Africa File:

  • Sahel. France’s president announced the upcoming end of the French counterterrorism mission in Mali. Al Qaeda’s Mali affiliate stepped up attacks on local and international security forces. Salafi-jihadi groups traded blame for an unprecedented massacre in Burkina Faso.
  • Lake Chad. Boko Haram is fragmenting after the death of its leader to the benefit of the Islamic State’s West Africa Province.
  • Somalia. Al Shabaab targeted military positions in Somalia’s capital and in several regions where the group is making military advances.
  • Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government declared a unilateral cease-fire in Tigray region after Tigrayan forces recaptured the regional capital.
  • Central Africa. The Islamic State’s affiliate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo conducted its first explosive attacks.
  • Libya. Rival administrations launched separate counterterrorism campaigns to compete for control of strategic areas in Libya’s south.

Latest publications:

  • Mozambique. Emily Estelle traces the development of the Islamic State in Mozambique for Foreign Policy, arguing that “getting policies right in Mozambique could set a new and better precedent for the fight against Salafi-jihadi insurgencies in Africa in general.” Read the piece here.
  • Mozambique. Emily Estelle and Jessica Trisko Darden updated the analysis from their February 2021 report on the Islamic State in Mozambique for Orbis. Read the article here.

Read Further On:

West Africa

East and Central Africa

North Africa

Figure 1. The Salafi-jihadi movement in Africa: July 2021

View full image here.

Source: Authors.


Overview: The Salafi-jihadi threat in Africa

Updated July 1, 2021

The Salafi-jihadi movement, which includes al Qaeda and the Islamic State, is active across Northern, Eastern, and Western Africa and is expanding and deepening its presence on the continent. This movement, like any insurgency, draws strength from access to vulnerable and aggrieved populations. Converging trends, including failing states and regional instability, are creating favorable conditions for the Salafi-jihadi movement’s expansion. Meanwhile, counterterrorism efforts rely on the continued efforts of international coalitions, support for which is eroding, and on states and local authorities that have demonstrated an inability to govern effectively.

West Africa. The Salafi-jihadi movement has spread rapidly in West Africa by exploiting ethnic grievances and state weaknesses that include human rights abuses, corruption, and ineffectiveness. An al Qaeda affiliate co-opted the 2012 Tuareg rebellion in Mali and has continued to expand southward through the Sahel region into central Mali and the peripheries of Burkina Faso. An Islamic State–linked group is active in the same area, particularly western Niger and parts of Burkina Faso.

Sahel groups have not yet plotted attacks outside West Africa but have sought to drive Western security and economic presence out of the region while building lucrative smuggling and kidnapping-for-ransom enterprises. An al Qaeda–linked group in Mali is infiltrating governance structures, advancing an overarching Salafi-jihadi objective, and expanding into Gulf of Guinea countries. West Africa has become an area of focus for transnational Salafi-jihadi organizations, with rival jihadists now fighting for dominance in the Sahel. Meanwhile, political instability, particularly in Mali, threatens local and international counterterrorism efforts.

The Islamic State’s largest African affiliate is based in northwest Nigeria—Africa’s most populous country—and conducts frequent attacks into neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Boko Haram and an al Qaeda–linked splinter group are also active in this region. The death of Boko Haram’s longtime leader in May 2021 may lead to short-term intra-jihadist turmoil but will likely benefit the Islamic State’s Nigerian branch in time.

New instability in Chad, whose longtime president was killed in April 2021, may lift pressure from Salafi-jihadi groups in both Mali and the Lake Chad Basin, where Chadian forces participate in regional counterterrorism efforts.

East Africa. Al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate and the dominant Salafi-jihadi group in East Africa, is vocal about its intent to attack US interests and has begun to plot international terror attacks. The group enjoys de facto control over broad swathes of southern Somalia and can project power in the Somali federal capital Mogadishu and regional capitals, where it regularly attacks senior officials. It seeks to delegitimize and replace the weak Somali Federal Government—a task made easier by endemic political dysfunction, corruption, and an ongoing constitutional crisis. Al Shabaab’s governance ambitions extend to ethnic Somali populations in Kenya and Ethiopia, and the group conducts regular attacks in eastern Kenya.

Al Shabaab is positioned to benefit from eroding security conditions in East Africa. Ethiopia’s destabilization is already having regional effects, including weakening counter–al Shabaab efforts in Somalia. The drawing down of the US and African Union counterterrorism missions in Somalia will also reduce pressure on al Shabaab.

The Islamic State has also penetrated the region. Islamic State branches are now active in northern Somalia, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and northern Mozambique, bordering Tanzania. The insurgency caused French company Total to shutter a multibillion-dollar natural gas project in northern Mozambique that was the continent’s largest private investment. The Islamic State foothold in Mozambique also marks the Salafi-jihadi movement’s expansion into southern Africa.

North Africa. Salafi-jihadi groups in North Africa are at a low point, but the fragility and grievances that led to their rise remain. The Arab Spring uprisings and subsequent security vacuums allowed Salafi-jihadi groups to organize and forge ties with desperate and coerced populations. The Islamic State’s rise brought a peak in Salafi-jihadi activity in North Africa, particularly from its branches in Libya and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Counterterrorism pressure has weakened Salafi-jihadi groups across North Africa in the past five years.

The insurgencies in Libya and the Sinai are active but contained, and terrorist attacks across the region have decreased. Libya’s political and security crisis will continue to create opportunities for Salafi-jihadi groups, and severe instability or collapse in any North African state would likely bring the Salafi-jihadi threat back to the surface.

West Africa

Sahel

France’s president announced his intent to end Operation Barkhane, the French counterterrorism mission in the Sahel. French President Emmanuel Macron stated on June 10 that a more international effort will replace Barkhane, which involves over 5,000 French troops stationed in several countries. The operation’s end date has not been announced, and Macron promised to provide more details by the end of June. Fifty-one percent of French people no longer support France’s involvement in Mali. Ending the operation likely reflects domestic sentiment in the lead-up to 2022 presidential elections as well as the challenge posed by partnering with Mali’s government, which recently suffered its second military coup in less than a year. Agence France-Presse reports that France may have sought to increase the number of UN peacekeepers deployed in Mali but was not able to secure the necessary funding before the UN mission’s mandate was renewed on June 29.

An al Qaeda–linked group may expand its operations into Mauritania. The Macina Liberation Front (MLF), a component of the al Qaeda­–linked Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wa al Muslimeen (JNIM), *entered several Malian villages located near the Mauritanian border without resistance on June 24. The militants addressed the villagers and warned them against collaborating with Malian security forces. They also announced plans to establish sharia law in the villages and closed government-run schools. The MLF has been operating in nearby villages, most notably in Farabougou village, and is likely using resources gathered from these communities to advance north and along the border region.

Mauritania has been resilient against Salafi-jihadi activity despite its proximity to Salafi-jihadi safe havens in nearby Mali. Growing Salafi-jihadi activity in the border region may allow MLF militants to cross over into Mauritania, however, as the country continues to *suffer from COVID-19’s economic and social effects as well as internal political struggles.

Figure 2. MLF activity in the Mali-Mauritania border region: June 24–30, 2021

Source: Authors.

The emir of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb gave his first speech since becoming the group’s leader in November 2020.[i] Abu Yusuf al Annabi exhorted Muslims worldwide to support al Qaeda and emphasized that jihad is necessary to liberate Palestine. He reiterated other longstanding talking points, including calling on Malians to support JNIM instead of the Malian government or France.

JNIM stepped up attacks against security forces in Mali. The group is likely responsible for two attacks on Malian and international security forces on June 25. Militants detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) at a temporary UN base near Tarkint in northern Mali, injuring 12 German peacekeepers and one Belgian. Militants also attacked an outpost and killed six Malian soldiers in central Mali’s Boni village on June 25. JNIM is likely responsible for these attacks. JNIM has operated in Boni and Tarkint for years, including killing 15 Malian soldiers in its most recent attack in Boni. These attacks signal JNIM’s ability to conduct simultaneous attacks in two separate locations.

Likely Salafi-jihadi attacks are wreaking serious harm on civilians in northern Burkina Faso and western Niger. Gunmen killed at least 130 civilians in northwestern Burkina Faso in the worst terrorist attack in the country’s history on June 4–5. More than 7,000 people have since fled the area, which has fallen victim to armed groups competing for access to gold mining. The Burkinabe government reported that children and women participated in the attack. A Burkinabe news outlet *reported that the government spokesman named the group as “Moujai al Qaeda.” JNIM condemned the attack and claimed it was not involved on June 8.[ii] An Islamic State publication accused JNIM of denying its responsibility for the massacre on June 24 and alleged that the incident had caused an internal rift.[iii] JNIM and the Islamic State’s Sahel branch are competing for dominance in Mali and neighboring regions.

Attackers on motorbikes killed at least 10 people in western Niger on June 25. Islamic State militants have recently targeted civilians in the area.

 Lake Chad

Boko Haram is fragmenting after the death of late leader Abubakr Shekau. Boko Haram militant Bakura Modu, suspected to be the group’s new leader, *confirmed Shekau’s death in a video released on June 16. Modu claims that Shekau died as a martyr fighting against the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWA) led by Abu Musab al Barnawi. Boko Haram has lost several militants due to defections to ISWA, and the group has not conducted many attacks since Shekau’s death. Militants still loyal to Boko Haram *recruited unemployed men in northeastern Nigeria after Shekau’s death, indicating the group is looking for fighters after suffering defections to ISWA. Suspected Boko Haram militants *attacked Nigerien soldiers in Bosso in southeastern Niger on June 22.

Islamic State media is focusing on ISWA to highlight the group’s success against rival groups and opposing security forces. Islamic State central media published a video on ISWA on June 25, the first video featuring this affiliate since February 2020. The video shows fighters discussing the West Africa Province’s latest operations in Arabic, Hausa, and English, including an indirect reference Shekau’s death. The video also features Boko Haram fighters pledging allegiance to the Islamic State and later participating in attacks against Nigerian security forces, indicating that defected Boko Haram fighters are already participating in attacks in the Islamic State’s name.

ISWA is maintaining its dominance in northeastern Nigeria and will likely expand beyond its current area of operations. ISWA continued regular attacks against Nigerian security forces in and near Borno State. The group attacked police headquarters, killing at least four policemen, in Gujba, Yobe State, Nigeria, on June 22. ISWA *seized a Nigerian military base in Borno State’s capital, Maiduguri, the following day. ISWA is also *fighting militants still loyal to Boko Haram in Sambisa Forest, Boko Haram’s previous main hideout. ISWA will likely maintain the upper hand in the fight against Boko Haram given its larger number of fighters and greater resources.

East and Central Africa

Somalia

Al Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, is conducting large and frequent attacks on several fronts throughout Somalia. The group has benefited from a five-month pause in US airstrikes and political turmoil in Somalia that has drawn security forces’ attention.

An al Shabaab suicide bomber attacked the entrance to a training camp attached to a Turkish-run military complex in Mogadishu on June 15. The attack killed at least 15 people and wounded many others. Al Shabaab promoted the attack with a statement accusing Turkey of extracting Somalia’s wealth and participating in the exploitation of Muslims via its NATO membership.[iv] The group also warned parents against sending their sons to join Turkish-trained military units.

Al Shabaab is waging military campaigns against Somali security forces, including Turkish-trained *units, in the Middle Shabelle and Galmudug regions in south-central Somalia. The group *attacked a Somali military base with a VBIED on June 18 and claimed to *capture several villages in Middle Shabelle region throughout the month of June. Al Shabaab conducted another complex VBIED attack on a Somali base further north at Wisil in Mudug region on June 27.

Al Shabaab has also claimed capturing towns in other hot spots throughout the country, including in Lower Shabelle and Bay regions. The group claimed to seize *Warmahan in Lower Shabelle on June 6 and *Daynunay in Bay on June 9. Al Shabaab notably *occupied another town in Lower Shabelle region on June 22 after Ugandan African Union Mission to Somalia forces withdrew as part of a planned relocation.

Al Shabaab will continue attempts at territorial expansion alongside assassination attempts in the lead-up to Somalia’s elections. Somalia’s prime minister and the presidents of its member states announced an *election plan spanning July to October. Al Shabaab already uses violence to intimidate or remove officials. Both al Shabaab and the Islamic State issued competing claims of responsibility for a bombing that targeted Puntland’s security minister on June 26.[v]

Ethiopia

The Ethiopian government announced a unilateral cease-fire in Tigray region, marking a major inflection in the eight-month conflict. The cease-fire declaration came just after Tigrayan Defense Forces (TDF)—the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) military wing— recaptured Mekelle, the regional capital, from the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF). The ENDF captured and had controlled Mekelle since the Tigray conflict began in November 2020. Mekelle’s recapture is the TDF’s most recent battlefield success in a recent series of advances in June. The TDF also expelled ENDF-allied Eritrean forces from Adwa, Axum, and Shire and now control those towns. TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda rejected the government-ordered cease-fire and foreshadowed TDF plans to possibly pursue Eritrean forces into Eritrea and the ENDF into neighboring Amhara region.

The Tigray conflict reflects deep and unresolved political challenges reaching back decades. The TPLF led Ethiopia’s ruling coalition until Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018. Reconciliation between Abiy’s administration and TPLF leadership has been elusive. The TPLF, which remained in control of Tigray regional state, held regional elections against the federal government’s decision and attacked an ENDF base in Tigray in November 2020. Ethiopian federal forces launched an operation to take control of Tigray in November 2020. The conflict has taken a huge humanitarian toll, with around four million people in Tigray now at risk of starvation. Humanitarian assistance has struggled to reach at-risk areas in Tigray due to Eritrean and ENDF efforts to block access. The ENDF and Eritrean forces have also been accused of committing mass murders, sexual violence, and other human rights abuses against Tigrayan civilians.

The war will continue despite Abiy’s call for a cease-fire. TPLF and TDF officials have stated clear intent to eliminate all threats to Tigray inside or outside of the region. The Ethiopian government also stated on June 30 that it could reenter Mekelle, seemingly contradicting its cease-fire declaration. The TDF will likely seek to capitalize on its recent military victories and push the conflict outside of Tigray, including into disputed territory on the Eritrean border. The expansion of the Tigray conflict will exacerbate the ongoing humanitarian crisis and could destabilize both Ethiopia and Eritrea, raising the risk of broader unrest or even state collapse. A worst-case scenario in Ethiopia would generate a vacuum that could be exploited by Salafi-jihadi groups such as al Shabaab, which has previously sought to expand into Ethiopia.

Central Africa

The Islamic State’s Central Africa Province (ISCA) claimed its first suicide bombing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The group claimed responsibility for bombings at a bar and a Catholic church in Beni in northeastern DRC on June 27.[vi] The attacks injured at least two people. Another explosive detonated near a gas station the day prior.

The use of suicide bombing in DRC may also foreshadow the use of explosive attacks in northern Mozambique. ISCA has two separate branches—one in DRC and one in Mozambique—but there are connections between them, including Mozambican fighters present in DRC.

Fighting is ongoing between security forces and Islamic State–­­linked militants in northern Mozambique, where the multiyear insurgency has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians. The Southern African Development Community recently agreed to send a military force to Mozambique, but the mandate, scale, and timing of the deployment remains unclear. The European Union approved a military training mission for Mozambique on June 30.

North Africa

Libya

 Rival administrations launched separate counterterrorism campaigns to compete for control of strategic areas in Libya’s south. The Government of National Unity (GNU) and the Libyan National Army (LNA) deployed forces to secure the south after two Islamic State attacks. The GNU is Libya’s internationally recognized transitional government and is based in Tripoli in western Libya. The LNA is a militia coalition that controls eastern Libya.

The Islamic State in Libya (IS-Libya) detonated a VBIED that killed at least two LNA-affiliated police officers in Sebha on June 6. The attack marked the first time IS-Libya used a VBIED in southern Libya. IS-Libya also claimed an ambush and improvised explosive device attack on LNA forces on June 14. The attack killed an LNA commander.

The LNA announced its southern counterterrorism *campaign on June 17. The LNA’s 128 Brigade established a military zone near a Libyan-Algerian border crossing. An LNA media unit claimed it had closed the entire border on June 20. The LNA does not have the capacity to police the roughly 620-mile-long border, however. The GNU appointed a defected LNA leader from the LNA’s 116 Brigade on June 17 to lead a new GNU southern security force, likely in an attempt to discredit the LNA and capture any local relationships that the former LNA commander had forged. The GNU issued an order prohibiting military movements without its approval on June 19. The LNA deployed the Tariq bin Ziyad Brigade, one of its most active units in prior campaigns, to replace the now GNU-led 116 Brigade in Sebha on June 23.

The 116 and Tariq bin Ziyad Brigade commanders are aligned with opposing tribes. GNU and LNA counterterrorism efforts may lead to militia clashes along political or tribal lines. IS-Libya may attempt to stoke these clashes with further attacks. Deteriorating security in southwestern Libya could also lift pressure from IS-Libya, which could seize the opportunity to rebuild strength through recruiting and money-making activities.

The LNA and GNU activity in Sebha may have also reflected power jockeying in the lead-up to an international peace conference. Leaders from Libya, Russia, Turkey, and the US, attended the Berlin 2 conference in Germany on June 23. Berlin 2 focused on advancing the December 2021 elections and the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries. The GNU’s foreign minister said international actors made major progress on the withdrawal of foreign forces. Evidence of foreign mercenaries leaving the country in the last six months is scarce, however. Berlin 2 also failed to specify new concrete measures to deal with mercenaries or the LNA.


[i] SITE Intelligence Group, “In First Speech as AQIM Leader, 'Annabi Champions Jihad to “Liberate” Palestine and Urges Malians to Support Fighters,” June 25, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[ii] SITE Intelligence Group, “JNIM Disavows Massacre in Burkina Faso, Prays for Victims,” June 8, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[iii] SITE Intelligence Group, “IS Accuses JNIM of Solhan Massacre in Burkina Faso Despite Denial, Distributes Printed Copies of Naba Newspaper in Afghanistan,” June 25, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[iv] SITE Intelligence Group, “Shabaab Official for Banaadir Region Speaks on Camp TURKSOM Suicide Bombing, Portrays Turkey as Parasite,” June 15, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[v] SITE Intelligence Group, “IS and Shabaab Give Competing Responsibility Claims for Blasts on Puntland Ministerial Motorcade,” June 26, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[vi] SITE Intelligence Group, “IS Claims its 1st Suicide Bombing in DR Congo, Blast Inside Church,” June 29, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

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Africa File: Islamic State’s Sahel branch ups activity amid Mali’s political crisis

[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk (*) for the reader's awareness.]

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Mali’s political crisis may disrupt counterterrorism efforts to the benefit of Salafi-jihadi groups. Mali suffered its second coup in a year, causing key partners—including France—to suspend military cooperation. This disruption occurs as the Islamic State’s Sahel branch rebounds after more than a year of clashes with its rival, al Qaeda’s branch in Mali.

In this Africa File:

  • Sahel. An Islamic State affiliate resumed publicizing its activities in northeastern Mali. Likely Salafi-jihadi militants massacred civilians in Burkina Faso.
  • Lake Chad. The Islamic State’s West Africa Province is strengthening in northeastern Nigeria and will benefit from the death of Boko Haram’s leader.
  • Somalia. Al Shabaab launched an offensive against the Somali military north of the capital Mogadishu.
  • Libya. The Islamic State conducted an attack in southwestern Libya after a yearlong pause.

Read Further On:

West Africa

East Africa

North Africa

Figure 1. The Salafi-Jihadi Movement in Africa: May 2021

View full image here.

Source: Authors.

Overview: The Salafi-jihadi threat in Africa

Updated May 12, 2021

The Salafi-jihadi movement, which includes al Qaeda and the Islamic State, is active across northern, eastern, and western Africa and is expanding and deepening its presence on the continent. This movement, like any insurgency, draws strength from access to vulnerable and aggrieved populations. Converging trends, including failing states and regional instability, are creating favorable conditions for the Salafi-jihadi movement’s expansion. Meanwhile, counterterrorism efforts rely on the continued efforts of international coalitions, support for which is eroding, and on states and local authorities that have demonstrated an inability to govern effectively.

West Africa. The Salafi-jihadi movement has spread rapidly in West Africa by exploiting ethnic grievances and state weaknesses that include human rights abuses, corruption, and ineffectiveness. An al Qaeda affiliate co-opted the 2012 Tuareg rebellion in Mali and has continued to expand southward through the Sahel region into central Mali and the peripheries of Burkina Faso. An Islamic State–linked group is active in the same area, particularly western Niger and parts of Burkina Faso.

Sahel groups have not yet plotted attacks outside West Africa but have sought to drive Western security and economic presence out of the region while building lucrative smuggling and kidnapping-for-ransom enterprises. An al Qaeda–linked group in Mali is infiltrating governance structures, advancing an overarching Salafi-jihadi objective, and expanding into Gulf of Guinea countries. West Africa has become an area of focus for transnational Salafi-jihadi organizations, with rival jihadists now fighting for dominance in the Sahel.

The Islamic State’s largest African affiliate is based in northwest Nigeria—Africa’s most populous country—and conducts frequent attacks into neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Boko Haram and an al Qaeda–linked splinter group are also active in this region.

New instability in Chad, whose security forces are engaged in counterterrorism efforts in Mali and the Lake Chad basin, may lift pressure from Salafi-jihadi groups in both theaters.

East Africa. Al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate and the dominant Salafi-jihadi group in East Africa, is vocal about its intent to attack US interests and has begun to plot international terror attacks. The group enjoys de facto control over broad swathes of southern Somalia and can project power in the Somali federal capital Mogadishu and regional capitals, where it regularly attacks senior officials. It seeks to delegitimize and replace the weak Somali Federal Government—a task made easier by endemic political dysfunction, corruption, and an ongoing constitutional crisis. Al Shabaab’s governance ambitions extend to ethnic Somali populations in Kenya and Ethiopia, and the group conducts regular attacks in eastern Kenya.

Al Shabaab is positioned to benefit from eroding security conditions in East Africa. Ethiopia’s destabilization is already having regional effects, including weakening counter–al Shabaab efforts in Somalia. The drawing down of the US and African Union counterterrorism missions in Somalia will also reduce pressure on al Shabaab.

The Islamic State has also penetrated the region. Islamic State branches are now active in northern Somalia, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and northern Mozambique, bordering Tanzania. The insurgency caused French company Total to shutter a multibillion-dollar natural gas project in northern Mozambique that was the continent’s largest private investment. The Islamic State foothold in Mozambique also marks the Salafi-jihadi movement’s expansion into southern Africa.

North Africa. Salafi-jihadi groups in North Africa are at a low point, but the fragility and grievances that led to their rise remain. The Arab Spring uprisings and subsequent security vacuums allowed Salafi-jihadi groups to organize and forge ties with desperate and coerced populations. The Islamic State’s rise brought a peak in Salafi-jihadi activity in North Africa, particularly from its branches in Libya and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Counterterrorism pressure has weakened Salafi-jihadi groups across North Africa in the past five years.

The insurgencies in Libya and the Sinai are active but contained, and terrorist attacks across the region have decreased. Libya’s political and security crisis will continue to create opportunities for Salafi-jihadi groups, and severe instability or collapse in any North African state would likely bring the Salafi-jihadi threat back to the surface.

West Africa

Sahel

The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) resumed publicizing its activity in Mali. The Islamic State released photos in its weekly newsletter, al Naba, showing ISGS militants punishing three thieves under sharia law in the Gao region of northeastern Mali. ISGS arrested the men during a robbery attempt in late April and publicly amputated their right hands on May 2. The group also claimed to have killed five Christians at a fake checkpoint between Mali and Niger on June 1.[i]

ISGS has also increased its activity in Niger and Burkina Faso, indicating that it is recovering from losses suffered in clashes with al Qaeda–linked Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wa al Muslimeen (JNIM). ISGS began clashing with JNIM in late 2019 and fighting has continued since. The clashes have disrupted ISGS’s activity in Gao region since September 2020.

ISGS appears to have either ousted or deconflicted with JNIM in parts of Gao region, where ISGS has been collecting tax from villagers in recent months. ISGS is also active in western Niger and claimed to kill 36 Nigerian security forces in two separate attacks on May 1 and May 4 in western Niger’s Tahoua and Tillaberi regions.[ii] On May 3, the group likely killed 30 civilians in eastern Burkina Faso’s Kodyel village near the Nigerien border, an area ISGS targeted in the past. ISGS has conducted several attacks in eastern Burkina Faso and western Niger since early April.

Likely Salafi-jihadi militants conducted a large-scale attack on civilians in Burkina Faso. Gunmen killed at least 130 civilians in Burkina Faso’s Yagha province near the Nigerien border on June 5, marking the worst terrorist attack in the country’s history. The militants targeted volunteer civilian defense forces, then attacked civilian homes and a market.

ISGS is likely responsible for this attack. ISGS has systematically targeted civilians in western Niger in recent months. JNIM, which also operates in northern Burkina Faso, denied responsibility for the attack in a statement on June 8 and has been quick to condemn attacks against civilians. It is also possible that one of JNIM’s local units, which operate with some autonomy, may have conducted the attack without the approval of JNIM’s central command. The denial comes at a time when JNIM is losing popular support to its main competitor, ISGS.

The uptick in ISGS activity is occurring as political unrest disrupts regional counterterrorism efforts in the western Sahel. Mali suffered its second coup in nine months on May 24. Mali’s transitional Vice President Assimi Goita, who also led the August 2020 coup, seized the presidency after arresting interim President Bah N’Daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane on May 24. Both N’Daw and Ouane announced their resignation on May 26.

France suspended its joint military operations with Malian forces on June 3 because of the coup, pending clarification from the junta on the plan for political transition to civilian rule. The African Union and the Economic Community of West African States also *suspended Mali’s membership until a civilian government is restored. Goita was sworn in as Mali’s transitional president on June 6 and claimed he will oversee Mali’s transition to civilian rule.

Lake Chad

Boko Haram leader Abubakr Shekau is dead. The Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWA) attacked Boko Haram’s camp in Sambisa Forest, Boko Haram’s main hideout, in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state on May 18. ISWA militants reached Shekau and *demanded he pledge allegiance to ISWA. Shekau chose to detonate a suicide vest instead of joining ISWA. An audio recording released on June 6 confirmed Shekau’s death. An ISWA leader sent “glad tidings” of Shekau’s death and claimed Shekau killed himself rather than surrender to ISWA.

ISWA had already been building strength, and Shekau’s death creates an opportunity for the group to cement its gains. Control of Sambisa Forest, a longtime Boko Haram stronghold, will provide ISWA with more hideouts and safe zones, offering the group greater protection against counterterrorism efforts. ISWA has been active elsewhere in and near northeastern Nigeria’s Borno State, conducting *persistent attacks against security forces since December 2020.

ISWA is ultimately more dangerous than Boko Haram because it has a more effective strategy and takes steps to avoid alienating local populations. Shekau was notorious for attacking Muslim civilians and using girls as suicide bombers. ISWA has provided governance and embedded itself in the communities in which it operates, providing local communities with incentive to cooperate. The group also makes modest efforts to protect commerce and free movement in its territories. ISWA has embraced more violence toward civilians in recent years, potentially risking this strategy, but it has remained more focused on targeting security forces over civilians than Shekau’s Boko Haram.

ISWA has conducted several attacks against security forces in Nigeria and Niger since Shekau’s death. ISWA claimed to kill seven Nigerian security personnel and capture two others in an attack on June 4 in Borno State. The militants also attacked a Nigerien army post in southern Niger’s Diffa town, killing an unknown number of Nigerien troops and capturing vehicles and weapons.[iii] The group has also been collecting zakat (religious tax) from villagers, including money, cattle, and crops, and has heavily promoted this collection in propaganda.[iv]

East Africa

Somalia

Al Shabaab launched an offensive against the Somali National Army (SNA) in Somalia’s Middle Shabelle region and may contest control of the regional capital, Jowhar. Al Shabaab killed five SNA soldiers in an ambush on Middle Shabelle’s Raghe Ceelle district on May 19.[v] The group has launched several *offensives in and near Jowhar since. Jowhar is the Middle Shabelle region’s administrative capital and lies on a major road about 50 miles north of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. SNA forces *recaptured several villages outside Jowhar in February and al Shabaab may be attempting to regain control over the area.

North Africa

Libya

The Islamic State in Libya (IS-Libya) claimed its first attack since June 2020. An attacker detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) at a police checkpoint in Sebha in southwestern Libya on June 6. The explosion *killed at least two police officers and injured four others. IS-Libya claimed responsibility for the explosion on the messaging app Telegram on June 6. The group claimed that the explosion killed four police officers affiliated with Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). The LNA nominally controls Sebha and arrested an IS-Libya leader in March about 120 miles southwest of Sebha. IS-Libya has not claimed an attack since June 2020, when it conducted multiple attacks against the LNA.

The bombing may have been intended to worsen instability in Sebha. Clashes between rival security forces in Sebha have decreased since the newly formed Government of National Unity (GNU) took office in March. The GNU’s *plans to dispatch security forces to Libya’s southern border may reignite clashes, however. IS-Libya may exploit tensions between militias to attack security forces and conduct raids.

Libyan leaders may also use the attack to delegitimize their political opponents before national elections in December 2021. The LNA accused the Muslim Brotherhood of carrying out the June 6 attack, a common LNA refrain intended to delegitimize political opponents. The messaging is likely targeted at LNA rivals such as former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, an ally of Turkey with ties to Islamist militias, who has positioned himself to run in the elections.


[i] SITE Intelligence Group, “Sahel Division of ISWAP Claims Killing 5 Christians at Bogus Checkpoint Between Gao and Niamey,” June 7, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[ii] SITE Intelligence Group, “ISWAP Claims 36 Deaths in Attacks on Enemy Troops in Niger's Tahoua and Tillabéri Regions,” May 8, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[iii] SITE Intelligence Group, “ISWAP Captures 2 CJTF Members Near Damboa and Attacks Nigerien Military Post, Documents the Result of Each,” June 7, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[iv] SITE Intelligence Group, “Naba 288 Exclusive Reports Activities of ISWAP's ‘Zakat Bureau’ in Lake Chad Region, Collection of 157K USD in 2 Months,” May 28, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

[v] SITE Intelligence Group, “Shabaab Claims 20 Kenyan Soldiers Killed in Ambush in Lamu County, 26 Casualties in SNA Ranks in Gedo,” May 19, 2021, available by subscription at www.siteintelgroup.com.

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